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College Football returns: Nebraska, Northwestern highlight Week Zero with Ireland game

College football returns Saturday with 11 games on the schedule for Week Zero, including Nebraska vs Northwestern traveling to Dublin, Ireland.

College football fans have spent the past seven months pining, patiently awaiting the return to the gridiron as the sports fix was fed with the NBA and always thrilling regular-season baseball. 

The wait has come to end. Sort of. 

Week Zero of the college football season has arrived with 11 games scheduled for Saturday, August 27. There will not be a single ranked team competing, but no one should be getting picky this weekend. 

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Let’s take a look at a handful of games on the Week Zero slate.

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost enters his fifth year in Lincoln with the heat on full blast as his Cornhuskers have failed to finish a season over .500 since taking the job in 2018. After finishing last season at 3-9, and losing their opener to Illinois, Nebraska heads to Dublin, Ireland, for a fun game against Northwestern. 

The Cornhuskers will have a new quarterback under center as Texas transfer Casey Thompson will get the first snap for Nebraska. Thompson started 10 games for Texas last season, throwing for 2,113 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. 

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"I really like what we have at that position," Frost said on "Husker Sports Nightly" when announcing the news. "I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one play, but Casey’s going to take the first rep."

Northwestern is coming off a disappointing season, finishing 3-9 in 2021 after finishing above .500 in five of the past six seasons. The Wildcats were blown out in their game against Nebraska last season, losing 56-7 in Lincoln. 

Head coach Bret Bielema made the most of his first Week Zero game as head coach at Illinois, defeating Nebraska to kick off the 2021 season. Can he go 2-0?

The Fighting Illini are hoping to take another step after a decently successful first season under their new head coach, finishing the 2021 season 5-7 but beating two ranked opponents in the process. 

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"Really excited for our players, our coaches, but just Illinois football in general, which obviously includes the University of Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana community, all of our fans and alumni," Bielema said on Monday, according to 247 Sports. "There’s a really good buzz going with our players. Buzz doesn’t actually equate to wins but I do like the excitement, the energy, just the general feel of what our guys are doing."

Wyoming went 7-6 in 2021 but the Cowboys lost 14 starters from last year's team. Head coach Craig Bohl enters his ninth season in Laramie, getting his Cowboys to four bowl games during his tenure. 

Welcome to the Jim Mora era at UConn. The Huskies, coming off of a 1-11 season in 2021, including a loss to FCS Holy Cross, are hoping that Mora can infuse some life into the program. 

Mora has not coached since the 2017 season when he was fired after six seasons at UCLA, spending the last three years living in Idaho and working for ESPN.

"I wanted another chance. I was at the point, if it didn't happen, I was OK with it. I was happy in Sun Valley," Mora said of his residence in Idaho, according to ESPN. "There was an itch that I had that I really felt like I needed this opportunity. It's what I love to do, it's what I'm passionate about. I love being able to affect these kids. I'm at the point in my life where it's really, truly not about me."

Utah State is the defending Mountain West champions, going 11-3 last year and defeating Oregon State in their bowl game. 

The Aggies will head to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1 Alabama in week one. 

For those willing to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, the Week Zero slate ends with a trip to Honolulu. 

Vanderbilt is coming off of a 2-10 record in head coach Clark Lea’s first year at the helm and is seeking its first opening season win since 2018. Regardless of Vanderbilt’s 2021 record, Lea has set high expectations for the Commodores. 

"We know in time Vanderbilt football will be the best program in the country," Lea said at SEC Media Days. 

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Vanderbilt has not had a winning season since 2013, has never won 10 games in a season, or appeared in the SEC Championship Game.

Hawaii is entering its first season under former record-setting quarterback Timmy Chang, who spent the past seasons as an assistant coach at Nevada. 

"When I played, it felt like I put a state on my back and now I tell the kids, 'The state needs you to make that block. This state's relying on you.' They understand," Chang said, according to ESPN. "It's bigger than me. It's for this whole community, all eight islands. That's kind of what makes [coaching here] really special, especially when you're born and raised here."

Hawaii has won its last seven home openers.

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